British aid to fund tech hub

4 November 2016


DFID has launched a 'frontier technology hub' aimed at helping its staff spot, fund and disseminate technologies to support the agency's development programmes.

The three-year Frontier Technology Livestreaming initiative was launched this week (1 November) at the agency's headquarters in London, United Kingdom, along with a report that singles out 10 technologies that fit its definition of 'frontier'.

These are technologies with the potential to "displace existing processes" and "reshape industry and communications, and provide urgently-needed solutions to global challenges like climate change", according to the report.

Technologies that it says meet this definition include 3D printing, drones, solar desalinisation and smog-reducing tech, as well as some less widely seen as development tools such as the Internet of Things and the collaborative economy.

Four of the tech providers identified in the report, all UK-based, were present at the launch.

"People in the private sector would love to get involved in some of these [development] programmes," said a member of the team in the department.

Commenting on the initiative, Oxfam’s senior strategic adviser, Duncan Green, told SciDev.Net: “With something like tech innovation, governments can help by creating an enabling environment where lots of new ideas bubble up, are tested, and then flourish or fail. This project seems to go part way towards that.”

James Wharton, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at DFID, said the hub "could be a milestone" in terms of the direction the agency takes in using technology to maximise the impact and value of aid.

"The hub is in itself a pilot of a new way of working at DFID," said a source at DFID. It encourages staff to do pilot studies and use potentially transformative technologies as a resource and a new type of action research, they explained.

It also aims to put DFID at the front line of adoption of these technologies, or their commercialisation in business terms, they added. Read the full story on SciDevNet here:

Source: SciDevNet 1 November2016